Watch: The Emphatic Progression Of A 21-Year-Old Australian Surf/Skate Talent - Stab Mag

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Watch: The Emphatic Progression Of A 21-Year-Old Australian Surf/Skate Talent

Oscar Berry floats lofty rotations, compares boardsports, and reflects on the Melbourne wavepool contest.

cinema // Feb 15, 2024
Words by Holden Trnka
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“My whole family moved up here to the Gold Coast when I was 15,” Oscar Berry tells me, while nursing a freshly sliced foot, courtesy of the Burleigh rock jump. “Dad was working in Sydney a lot, so the travel from Yamba was pretty gnarly. The Goldie is the place to be in Aus as a surfer. All the pros are up here and all the photogs, plus a heap of the crew from home have come up. Chris Zaffis moved up not that long after I did, and now the Walters boys are up here. It’s been sick surfing with the boys from home.”

“The level in Yamba is high, it’s littered with good surfers, but it’s just sort of easy to get forgotten about down there,” he says of the move from his quiet hometown. “If you’re not really trying to get shit done and get stuff out there, then you can get pretty lost.”

You may recall Oscar as the potent regular footer who is better at two things than you are at one. His powerful skillset, transferable between four wheels and three fins, caught our attention years ago. Before our eyes Oscar is rapidly affirming much of his potential — as evidenced by his new clip with Dan Scott and Hurley Australia.

At 21-years-old, Oscar is in just his third year of QS competition — a relatively late bloomer, comparative to many of his peers. 

“I didn’t really do too many grom surf comps. I used to do some of the Aussie skate contests, when I was like 11. They only had the under-18 division, and I used to skate in that. The skating sort of took a back burner once I got sponsored by Hurley though,” he recalls. “I was probably 13, which is pretty crazy. I’ve been with them for ages now. They look after me and I love the crew. “

In 2021, his first year of seriously competing on a surfboard, he was just a couple heats away from qualifying for the Challenger Series. Despite this slip, he was given a wildcard to the first CS event at Snapper Rocks, where he charged through the draw, eventually finishing 9th at the feet of an industrious Ramzi Boukhiam. 

“I got on a bit of a roll that year, just had a shocker in the last comp at Newcastle. I just needed to make a few heats and I would’ve qualified. Then, the Gold Coast event was fully just wild card mentality. I wasn’t even caring about the result and was just making heats. It was so fun.”

Atop his sturdy LSD steed, Oscar hopped this foamball. Photo by WSL

As it stands, all of Oscars’ good results in competition — including a 3rd and a 5th in separate Nias events — have come in good waves. It’s a point he chuckles about when I bring it up.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be a free surfer. I love to just chase good waves and put clips together. But the more I’ve gotten into it, I’ve started to love competing. I feel like if I can get to the Challenger level or even onto the CT, my surfing is there. I feel like my surfing compliments good waves, I just gotta get through this fucking leg of Australia [laughs]. Man, it’s so hard. Every year I’ve done it the waves have just been so terrible, getting through a lot of heats can be really tough for me.”

“At a wave like Nias, you paddle out and the best surfer usually wins. Like, I made it through the whole event and then got absolutely lit up by Rio [Waida] in the semi, he just wiped the floor with me, because he was the better surfer. In bad waves, it just becomes a wave catching contest, and the best surfer doesn’t always get a chance to show it. I just have to grind through this regional series and get myself on the Challenger. Once I’m there, I feel like I should fit right in.”

Comparing skate contests and surf contests, Oscar notes the obvious difference of scarcity, and acknowledges that the focus necessitated by leaping over concrete can be counterproductive to surf progression. 

Front salad or front snap? Photo by WSL

“Skate contests are definitely a different vibe. When the big practice sessions are going down at prime time and everyone’s skating, it’s pretty gnarly and snaky, but everyone’s still frothing. If someone puts down something huge, it makes everyone else want to go bigger too. Surfing on the other hand, is a pretty jealous sport. Someone gets a good one and everyone’s like, ‘Fuck, I wish I got one like that.’”

“Skating does compliment surfing really well, but it’s so hard on the body. I feel like you get too smoked skating. In 2021, I started pushing my skating pretty hard again. I was spinning 540’s and had my kickflip Indies and was getting back into it, and then the surf comps came around and I just forgot about it a bit. It’s really hard to truly put your focus into the two different sports — especially If you’re not just God’s gift, like Shaun White. If you’re a bit of a battler like me, it’s really hard to be super good at both.”

Looking ahead, Oscar sits in 8th on the current Australia QS, meaning he needs to squeak few more points from the few remaining 1000’s and 3000’s if he hopes to be one of the seven men from Oceania to qualify for the 2024 CS.

In the process, he’ll have to better his 25th from the URBNSurf Pro, a contest format which he does not view as the future of competitive surfing. “That was kind of shit,” he laughs “It feels real shit standing up on the exact same wave you just caught doing the exact same thing you just did and hoping you get a better score. It was real hard, and I’m pretty keen to surf some comps in the ocean.”

In light of the above clip, we’re excited to be rooting for him.

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